werd: james niche
I don't normally do this, but because this band has local roots and is helping other Rochester based music acts, so it's my pleasure to interview this band from the New York City region.
Cloud 9 can't necessarily be categorized into a genre of music, but if Whitey Ford, kicked Nick Hexum out of 311 and then slowed it down a little bit...I think you may have something close to Cloud 9. Even that doesn't really explain it.
They are a full band however, they explain later in the interview, and will be bringing the flavor back to their old stomping grounds as they return to Rochester this Saturday.
I spoke with Tags and Fresh over the phone, both of whom attended Brockport University. I spoke with them about who they are and what goes on their garbage plates.
Read on as ACT:LIVE presents Cloud 9.
Tags: My name is Mike. I’m one of the MCs in the band Cloud 9. I also go by the name Tags on occasion and it is a pleasure to be talking with ACT:LIVE.
Fresh: Hello mundo, my name is Doug. I go by the name Fresh in the band. I am also one of the MCs in Cloud 9, soon to be in the Rochester area.
ACT:LIVE: Where are you guys from?
Tags: I’m from Orange County, NY.
Fresh: I am from Long Island, NY.
ACT:LIVE: What length of time have you gentlemen been playing in a band together?
Fresh: Too long. (laughs) Close to seven years.
Tags: We went to school together at SUNY Brockport, we’ve come a long way from the days of when we would just MC over beats. When we left college we pieced together what is now Cloud 9.
ACT:LIVE: Who was making these beats? Is it anyone that’s still producing around here?
Tags: It was one of our dudes from the area.
ACT:LIVE: How did the SubSoil connection happen?
Tags: This is going to be the third time we’ve played at Dub Land, for one, but one of the times we played, the sound man seemed to really enjoy what we were doing and suggested SubSoil as a cool match-up for our band.
We linked up with those guys and did a little gig swapping. I booked them for a show down in Manhattan and they are now having us back in Rochester.
The last time we played in Rochester it was snowing so hard that only about fifteen people came out, so to be able to come back now and play in front of a larger audience is great. We’re really excited.
ACT:LIVE: What do you guys like about coming to play here in Rochester?
Fresh: We have so many fans and friends up there because we spent so much time here during school at Brockport. It’s an excuse to kick it with some people we don’t get to see too often and the atmosphere is great up there. We get to pretend we’re drunken college kids again and smash it up. (laughs)
We’re getting garbage plates as well.
It’s a great excuse to get a lot of people back together.
ACT:LIVE: How many members in the Could 9 outfit and how long have you been together?
Tags: There are six of us total and we’re coming up on our year and a half anniversary.
ACT:LIVE: What instruments?
Tags: 2 MCs, lead guitarist Mike, Elliot on the cello, Matt on bass and finally Anthony on the drums.
ACT:LIVE: Do you guys incorporate turntablism into your set?
Fresh: No, we haven’t, actually. We used to just play with a DJ when we first started, Tags and I, but we don’t really want to step back. We want to keep moving forward and one of our guitarists is completely against it.
So, as of now it’s something we are open to, but we need to convince our guitarist and we would also like to make the most out of the musicians we do have.
ACT:LIVE: What’s the latest project for Cloud 9? What’s news?
Fresh: We’re just wrapping up our first album. We just finished all the recording, printing is the next step.
ACT:LIVE: Is the band and the project everything you have wanted it to be so far?
Fresh: We never realized how much fun this would be to do, everything has really just snowballed for us. Now, we’re doing shows as much as possible.
In between doing at least one show a weekend, we try to do what we need to do to get this album finished.
Tags: I think we had originally scheduled the album release for September, so we’re a month a half behind right now.
ACT:LIVE: When are you looking to release the album?
Tags: I’d say mid November at the earliest.
Fresh: Putting an album together can end up snowballing into all kinds of things you never expect to happen. We have definitely encountered all of the little problems that you can run into when you work on something like this.
Just getting six people together to record is a hassle in itself.
It keeps you on your toes and makes you love what you do even more.
ACT:LIVE: How do you plan on distributing this CD? Are you taking the online approach or going the ol’ CD and show route?
Tags: In the beginning that was a big discussion we had as a group.
We’ll definitely go to iTunes and we’d like to start out with about one thousand copies on disc. People appreciate being able to hold a CD.
ACT:LIVE: What are your feelings on having to do so much online now-a-days? I miss the days of artwork and lyrics and credits and pictures…
Fresh: I think there are high points and low points for it, like anything else.
Tags: It’s nice to be broke with good music sometimes. (laughs)
Fresh: I’m still a big fan of actual CDs though. The whole package sets the mood for the CD and the music.
I think the digital world with sort itself out. There are so many great websites with photos and artwork, too.
As far as for our music, I just want people to listen to it, so if they get it online for free, then enjoy it.
As long as they make it out to a show after they hear our music, we’ve done our jobs.
ACT:LIVE: Speaking of audience, what kinds of message or vibe do you convey to your audience? What’s some of the subject matter?
Tags: I think the best compliment that we ever got was that people relate to our music on a real life level.
Like, look…we get stupid some times and we’ll write something while we’re wasted, then play it back later and keep it, just because we know it sounds stupid now, but we can build on it.
People appreciate honest musicians and if a listener can relate to one of our songs, I mean literally, then it turns into something more than just a song.
Fresh: We talk the truth. I remember when we first started, on a karaoke machine, we both agreed to not spit any shit we haven’t done.
We like to deliver reality with a fun vibe. Everybody is welcome.
ACT:LIVE: What’s your favorite CD right now?
Tags: Oo, that’s tough. Let Fresh go first.
Fresh: I’ve been a trip for a while now, with Atmosphere. I can’t say just one CD, it’s his whole catalog. He has insane wordplay. Another favorite group is Death Cab For Cutie.
Tags: I really like this group called ‘Flipsyde’, right now. That’s been circulating on my stereo along with Howard Stern on Serius, for the past five months.
ACT:LIVE: Have the shows kept you pretty busy?
Tags: We are staying extra busy on a live tangent. We just recently played with Eve 6 at Oregon State University and then, as part of our coast to coast weekend, we played with Schwayze in Maryland. He’s on that MTV show, Buzzin’.
ACT:LIVE: How was the treatment from the national acts you’ve played with?
Tags: You’d like to say that they were all really cool, but in reality, we are all so busy planning our individual sets that if we didn’t catch their ear right away, they probably missed us.
It’s no different than if we are playing with another local band. We are all really busy, and that’s ok.
Fresh: There’s always been a mutual respect. No one is ever disrespectful, or acts like a prima donna. The only prima donna I know is Tags, from Coud 9. (laughs)
Tags: Wow, it’s like that, huh?
Fresh: Schwayze was actually a really cool kid, very little ego. The party we played at with him was out of control.
ACT:LIVE: What’s the scene like in New York City hip-hop right now? I talk to different people who have different opinions.
Tags: It depends on what your definition of hip-hop is. Are we hip-hop? Is SubSoil hip-hop?
A lot of people still consider us rock. The scene is healthy, but you have to find it. It’s hit and miss with the clubs because they view a hip-hop band and its crowd a little bit differently.
If you are into music and you are paying attention, there’s a great scene. There’s plenty of talent in New York.
ACT:LIVE: When you guys come up to Rochester, you mentioned having a garbage plate…what’s on yours?
Tags: Awesome question. I want to plug Jimmy Z’s in Brockport. They let you get two kinds of meat with yours.
I rock the cheeseburger and white hot plate, covered in hot sauce with French fries and baked beans. I could have that for dinner, for the rest of my life.
Fresh: Good thing we’re coming soon because now I’m starving. (laughs)
I like the cheeseburger with home fries, mac salad and then covered in everything they have.
ACT:LIVE: Any shout outs you want to make to some folks up here before you come?
Tags: First, SubSoil. Those guys are great and it’s always a pleasure to link up with guys from out of town.
There is another crew in Brockport, Huevos Rancheros, we both give a shout out to them.
Fresh: Don’t forget the guy on the couch.
ACT:LIVE: Ok guys, the superhero names…what are they?
Tags: Hamilton. (laughs)
Fresh: Chuck Red.
ACT:LIVE: That sound like a steak. (laughs)
Fresh: Steak is pretty super to me.
Cloud 9 performs this Saturday the 25th, at Dub Land Underground in Rochester, NY.
They hit the stage with another local group I just recently did an interview and who will be performing the Future Sound show, SubSoil.
See you there kiddies...peep the websites!
Right now we're listening to:
Atmosphere "You" ("Whe Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold", 2008, Rhymesayers)